Weekly Feature

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How to Live With Your Kids—When They’re Adults

November 28, 2009
by Lindsey Chapman
Generally, kids are supposed to leave the nest when they’re old enough. But these days, many adult children are moving back home with their parents. Here are some tips on how to handle the situation and keep relationships peaceful.

The Pull Home

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In 2002, The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote “that unprecedented numbers of American adults [were] living with their parents.” According to WorldNetDaily writer Dennis Prager, college graduates coming home to live with their parents were the “obvious” participants in this trend.

While some people suggested that difficulties finding a job and obtaining enough money to become independent were the reasons young adults didn’t venture out on their own, more people said they came home to mom and dad simply because they wanted to do so.

Prager explained, “this generation of Americans (and quite possibly other Westerners) was raised with more freedom, autonomy and respect than probably any in history,” distinguishing it from past generations when many simply looked forward to getting out from under their parents' roof.

Rules, Rules, Rules

A great deal of tension can be avoided when families reunite, Forbes suggests, by having open communication from the start. Discuss the ground rules for the living arrangement openly (and preferably before moving-in day), and point out where problems may occur, such as whether the family will be expected to eat dinner at the same time, or how late guests can stay over.

As much as they may want to help out during a pinch, the reality is that supporting adult children can be too much of a financial strain on parents after time. Bankrate.com advises parents to require rent payments and make sure each party has responsibilities in the home.

When “boomerang kids” come home, parents may find themselves wondering if they’re in for trouble, or if the arrangement is just temporary while their child gets established for life on his or her own.

The plan for having kids move out eventually should be discussed, too. Parents can assess the situation by watching their children’s activities, and seeing whether they are generally acting lazy or if they are furthering their education, actively looking for work, saving money and clearly preparing to eventually move out. When kids are making good progress, Prager says, “the parents have succeeded both in instilling good values in their child and in becoming their child’s friend (which is what the parents of adults should eventually become).” Otherwise, they “are merely enablers.”

Making Accommodations

In the case of relatively young adults (like college graduates learning just how hard it can be to find a job in a weak economy), it’s quite possible that parents may have converted their child’s old room into a new office, or just taken advantage of the extra storage space.

The Florida Sun-Sentinel spoke with three designers who offered suggestions for making room for your kids again. A daybed placed against the wall can be a great way to provide somewhere to sleep and have a piece of furniture that also doubles as a sofa with the help of some throw pillows.

If you’re redecorating on a budget, don’t be afraid to let furniture from other parts of your house pull “double duty” either, the paper explains. End tables make fine nightstands, and dresser tops can also be used as TV stands.

Financial Emergencies

Sometimes situations are so pressing that parents and adult children find themselves living together to keep someone from facing foreclosure if they fall behind on mortgage payments, for example.
While such circumstances might not feel ideal, it may help to remember that intergenerational families were not so uncommon years ago. Stephanie Coontz, public education and research director for the Council on Contemporary Families, told the Los Angeles Times, “Grandparents can be more grand-parental and develop closer family ties, and having more people in a house can sometimes be a buffer for overly intense marital relations or parent-child relations.” She continued, “To the extent that we are stuck with this happening, it does give us a way to rediscover aspects of family life we’ve been ignoring for the last 80 to 100 years.”
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